“My husband is a wonder to me,” writes Ruth Fitzmaurice in the opening pages of her memoir I Found My Tribe, “but he is hard to find.”
She and Simon, a film director and writer, were happily married and expecting their third child when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2008. Given only three years to live, he is still alive nearly a decade later, but can now only communicate with his eyes.
And Fitzmaurice struggles –with Simon’s inexorable decline, the pressure of looking after their now five children, and the huge number of carers and nurses occupying their County Wicklow home.
But in the midst of all this, she finds her “tribe”: the Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club, a group of friends who regularly brave the chilly Irish Sea to gain a fleeting moment of exhilaration, normality and freedom.
Fitzmaurice’s book is as poetic as it is devastating, exploring thoughts of suicide and murder at the same time as being life-affirming and even occasionally funny.
It is a love letter to her husband, an homage to the sea and a tribute to the power of friendship, but most of all it is a testament of one woman’s fortitude in the face of a cruel fate.
Published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £14.99, available now